I clearly remember the day in August, 2008. I tell a gathering of entrepreneurs in Mumbai, that I am going to start a venture which will tell stories of entrepreneurs who are not superstars yet but have the spark, drive and hope. A few entrepreneurs say, ‘DO IT’. Most of the experts present say, ‘IT WON’T WORK’.
You will not survive more than six months. It’s a social hobby and nothing more. How can stories of unknown entrepreneurs make commercial sense?
I had to make a choice. I listened to my heart and started YourStory on 16th September 2008 (the site went live).
Today, as we enter the month of August in 2015 and YourStory completes seven years of relentless, obsessive and passionate pursuit of telling stories, we are starting a whole new exciting chapter that includes support from some very well-known and well-respected partners.
I believe that everyday of the last seven years we have done what we set out to do - to tell your stories. The only thing that we had on our side was an abundance of passion and self-belief. And through it all, the one and only thing that carried us forward was our love of entrepreneurs and their deep affection for us. We thrived on it all - the love, the energy, the bashing and critiquing too.
To everyone who is struggling, succeeding, dreaming and failing, let me share a few things that I learned along the way and hopefully, you will derive your own meanings from here.
- It’s taken me time, A LOT OF TIME. I’ve had to slog and often times it has been a non-glamorous, lonely and long road. Don’t believe people who will tell you otherwise. There were dark times when I questioned what I was doing. The only thing that kept me going was an inner fire. I had to do or die. There was no question of stopping.
- Looking back, the most priceless asset I have gathered is rich experiences. The good, the bad and the ugly – I cherish them all. They have made me what I am today. Don’t rely on experts and people who seem to know it all. You will hit the wall, you will shout and cry and you will mostly feel let down. It’s okay. Everyone does. Yes, everyone. So live your experiences. To everyone who knows me and has seen me from close quarters, you will also know of the innumerable lows and heartbreaks these years have brought. But honestly, if you don’t live the lows you will not enjoy the highs. I have lived my lows and it’s a good place to be. After every low I automatically bounce back with more vigour and strength to make it happen.
- I believe in good karma. I have seen good gestures being returned 100 fold, if not more. I have seen many entrepreneurs change and I have tried very hard not to (helped by my team who I can always rely on to bring me back to earth). But having said that, I know that everything around me will keep changing. As long as I can feel my ‘centredness’ - acutely, deeply and vehemently, I know I will be fine.
- I bootstrapped for seven years and it is COOL. (And I still hope and wish more and more people say it out loud and support it). Currently, with the incessant fund raise news doing the rounds, it seems bootstrapping is not getting the required respect it deserves. I bootstrapped for the last seven years (not that I had plenty of choices or that people were readily dishing out cash), but bootstrapping has made me the person I am today. When you know you have to fend for yourself every inch of the way, it gives you a different kind of grit and tenacity.
- I decided to take external funding because I realised I needed a strong wind beneath my wings if I were to achieve my vision of making every story matter. And I was clear that I wanted people who believed in the same values and principles to be part of this story.
I am fortunate and grateful that I found them. It is with the greatest joy that I share the news that Ratan Tata, Vani Kola (Kalaari Capital), Karthee Madasamy (Qualcomm Ventures) and T V Mohandas Pai have invested in YourStory.
The dream of making every story matter is phenomenal and we need people who can support this dream and believe in it whole-heartedly. I can’t list everyone who has impacted YourStory and me but I would like to thank everyone who has so generously helped, supported and stood by, especially my brilliant team. And to every single entrepreneur who has made us part ofhis/herjourney, I say thank you and more power to you!
Here’s another exciting announcement: The DNA of YourStory is that every story matters. And that’s why we are soon launching India's first tech product that empowers everyone to write, talk and view their own stories in their own languages using a mobile phone. It is time to reclaim the most precious of gifts that we laid aside a long time ago -it is time to tell our stories in our own language and create millions of original stories. I request you to join us as we attempt to create millions of original stories so that in every home, a story lives with eternal hope, passion and inner fire.
Thank you for giving YourStory a chance to live, to be with you, to be a part of you. It’s found a life and blossomed because of the love you have given unconditionally.
And wait, our story has just begun. Cheers to you and to me and to us creating our stories!